I have been single on and off for 14 years. I have failed in that time to find a partner who not only was emotionally available but was happy to have the kids around and able to work through difficulties, and willing to do so.
For many years, I decided I would remain single, because I had enough on my plate, I was busy raising children and providing for them, and I just didn’t have the energy for a new relationship as well. And as much as I love my children and my animals and my life, there were times when I would feel sorry for myself. Mostly around Christmas time, when the school concert was on and parents would turn up to watch their children. They would sit together and enjoy what they had created together, bask in the glow of their kids together. I wanted that. Instead, I would be there maybe with my mum, or sometimes alone. The first assembly, parent teacher interviews, the first day at middle school and high school.
It was lonely.
The hard decisions had to made by myself, the hard disciplinary actions when I felt that I was damaging my children. The hurtful teenage “I hate you”, the first period, the first friendship conflict, the first time and second and third time that I stuffed up and had to say sorry. Or the times I simply couldn’t be there because work got in the way.
It was hard. I had to pick myself up all the time.
I had good friends to help, but on my darkest days, it was all too dark even to share. I would just sit in the car on my way to work and cry, or cry myself to sleep after the kids went to bed.
And I would allow myself these days of “feeling sorry for myself”, and then I would tell myself that that was enough. I had had my wallow, what was I going to do about it?
I would pick myself up and instead make a plan.
How was I going to teach my children about divorce? I went to the library and picked up suitable books to read. We developed systems to keep track of things: the library box that contained the library books so that they wouldn’t go missing.
I made lists for the kids to bring things back from their dad’s house so they wouldn’t be left behind and laminated the lists so they could re-use them.
I made decisions on my own activities and made play dates when I was feeling painfully lonely. I strengthened my friendships, I learned to say no, I sacrificed hours working so that I would have the hours I wanted and be able to spend the time with the kids instead and be a good parent.
I got my fellowship of General Practice. I wasn’t sure how I was going to fit in study as well as the kids and work, so I made the point of studying for just 1 hour every day at bed time for 6 whole months. I committed to it and I did do it, and although some days I would fall asleep reading my textbook, I got through the exams and I got my fellowship.
And I did this just allowing myself the occasional “feeling sorry for myself” day.
About a month ago, I fell in a heap. I was feeling sorry for myself. Every day. Lamenting the fact that I am still single, that I still spend important days alone, that I still have so much weight to lose, that I still have a mortgage and have to work more than I would like because although the kids are grown up, they still need me more than ever.
I lamented the fact that this is not the life I had planned. That this is not where I imagined I would be in my life. I started to look at other people’s lives and feeling all jealous of what they have and what they have been able to achieve and accomplish. I started to tell myself of course they can afford that when there are two people earning money in that household.
And then one morning, on my Facebook newsfeed, I noticed something my sister had posted about 2 years ago. It was an excerpt from something written by the great author Paulo Coelho, and I quote:
“As if nothing had changed overnight, the warrior takes another wrong step and dives once again into the abyss. Ghosts provoke, loneliness torments him.
Now that he is more aware of his acts, he did not think this would happen.
But it did. Shrouded by darkness, he talks to his master.
“Master, I fell again into the abyss”, he says, “The waters are deep and dark”.
“Remember something”, responds the master. “It is not the diving that causes the drowning, but the staying underwater”
The warrior uses his remaining strength to get out of the situation he is in”.
It was like a lightning strike, a reminder of everything I have done for the last 14 years. How have I kept from drowning? I have got out of my situation, I have worked towards getting out of that abyss, time and time again.
Now that the children are older, there is no excuse for staying there. I could, and drown.
What exactly is stopping me having exactly the life I want to have?
Nothing, nothing at all. Everything is possible with hard work.
So I told myself it was time to stop wallowing. Enough, I said. Enough!
I got back to the gym. This was always my saving grace: being fit was the only way I could possibly get through the tough days. Everything else seemed easy compared to the gym.
And kept the weight down!
I would love to have a really nice outdoor area to go and sit in.
Guess what? I have an outdoor area. It needs some work and if I get off my arse and start the cat enclosure I have been meaning to make, I can open the entire house and let everyone just roam: cats, dogs, bunnies and people.
The thing is, it is in my power to make my life what I want it to be. I am free to leave the job that is not satisfying, I could make that decision if I wanted to. There are pros and cons of course, and I do have financial responsibilities. But I don’t have to have those either. I could sell my house and take myself on a travel around Australia trip if I really wanted to and spend all of my money on that.
The illusion is being trapped.
I am not trapped.
I am not drowning. Because I won’t allow it. Absolutely not.
I am a warrior.
The being single thing is not something I can change in a hurry, but being lonely is. It is a state of mind to a certain extent. I have so many people in my life, and it is up to me to continue nurturing those people and forget those who just take from me. I have allowed people to take from me without giving in return. Some of those bad relationships have been a choice.
So, 2019 is looking better than ever. I will have energy to build castles, and climb mountains.
Feel sorry for yourself, by all means, but use it to make plans and change your situation. You can. I can.